Prodrive restore Rally Japan winning Subaru

Petter Solberg’s 2004 Rally Japan winning Subaru Impreza S10 has been immaculately reborn courtesy of Prodrive Legends. It’s the first customer rebuild completed by Prodrive’s Heritage department which aims to bring more ex-Prodrive vehicles back to their original form.

The car completed three World Rally Championship events with Solberg and Phil Mills before being used across Europe by several privateers. Notable names include Derek McGarrity, who used it to win the 2006 Jim Clark Rally, Mads Ostberg, and most-recently Enda McCormack on various Irish events.

Prodrive’s eighth chassis of the 2004 season was acquired from Philip Case Rallysport at the start of 2020. Since then the Prodrive team has completely restored the Impreza WRC for a customer in Holland.

“Luckily the car was very original and hadn’t been messed with,” explained Heritage Projects Manager, Andy Brown. “A lot of the cars that went to Ireland were normally converted to right-hand-drive. This one hadn’t been so that made it easier.

“All of the components were original or still original specification so it was just a case of working through, getting everything crack tested and replated with the correct coatings. A lot of things had been painted when they should have been zinc plated.

“We did everything as it was back in the day. For example with the paint, the guy that painted the cars in 2004 still does our paintwork now. So he knew how to mask them up.

“Those cars had a big push on weight-saving so inside they didn’t put any lacquer on the paint, it was just a matte finish. All those details are now correct.

“Then it is just down to finding out the smaller details like the camera on the roof. The little things to get the car as close as possible.”

There is a running theme throughout the project. Original craftsmen returning to the car they had put together almost 20 years ago. And it all helps get the car back to how it left the Banbury site in 2004.

“We wanted to keep as much of the original car as we could so we only did the repairs that we felt necessary, like the sills which had to be replaced.

“The floors were just tidied up and repaired as they were but it is still the original chassis.

“I think it is important to keep that originality otherwise you almost end up with a new shell.

“The customer can confidently say that this is the car that Petter drove. Yes, it has been rebuilt but it is still the same shell.”

The level of detail Prodrive Legends has gone to in the rebuild is quite staggering. The driver’s seat and pedal box have been set in Solberg’s preferred position. Even the water bottle sits in-position as it was on Rally Japan.

Engineers have referred to Prodrive’s archives of documents including the specific build schedule for Rally Japan. The authenticity goes much deeper than its appearance as the car is set up in accordance with the pre-Japan specification.

“We had the original build specification,” said Brown, “even down to the signing-off sheet before the rally.

“It had all the details, like what door pockets Petter liked, so we can pretty much replicate it exactly how it was.”

While this build is planned to sit on-show in the customer’s office, Prodrive Legends still prepare the car as if it was going back into competition.

The team had put the car through its standard shakedown procedure the Friday before our interview. It was another déjà vu moment as Prodrive employees embraced the glorious sights and sounds of a Subaru World Rally Car again. 

“Part of our process is that we build it as if it is going back into competition.

“We give it a shakedown so we can get the data from it, make sure all of the systems are working correctly, and then it is up to the customer to decide what they want to do with it.

“It was fully commissioned just as it was done when Prodrive ran the cars.”

Prodrive Legends’ work won’t stop here, indeed it is the beginning of what Brown hopes will become a complete portfolio of legacy rally cars. In fact, Prodrive is currently restoring a Subaru Legacy which is planned to return to competition once complete.

When you think of the cars to roll out of Prodrive over the past four decades, the restoration projects have mouth-watering potential.

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Photos courtesy of Prodrive

Adam Hall

Brought up in the Irish countryside, Adam was never far away from the world of rallying. From following local events like the Circuit of Ireland and the Ulster Rally, Adam now puts the stories from stages all around the world into words through his website Rally Insight.

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